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Lawyers Club of San Diego is a specialty bar association committed to advancing the status of women in the law and society. We use this space to share articles written about Lawyers Club events and programs and items of interest to our members which are relevant to our mission. The opinions outlined in content published on the Lawyers Club of San Diego blog are those of the authors and not of Lawyers Club. All members are encouraged to participate respectfully in discussions regarding the topics posted on the blog. Guest writers are welcome. Guidelines for writers may be found on the Leadership Resources page.

 

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Critical Educational Needs for Central Elementary Students

Posted By Stacy Roby for Lawyers Club's Community Outreach Committee, Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Education has become reliant on technology and this can be expensive, especially for economically disadvantaged schools such as Central Elementary in City Heights. The twice-yearly Lawyers Club of San Diego’s Read-In is a powerful way for Lawyers Club members to share their career journey and act as role models. Read-In volunteers strive to inspire students and to instill the belief that with focus and determination, they can succeed in achieving a professional career of their choice.

Public funding in education is lacking and the current critical need for Central Elementary classrooms is headphones for every student. Computers, iPads, and Chromebooks are used daily for learning programs, research, and assessment testing which provides data on students’ academic progress. With this knowledge, teachers can provide instruction to improve areas of weakness and enhance students’ strengths.

In 2020, Central Elementary needs 600 sets of headphones (specifically, Califone 3068AV Switchable Stereo/Mono headphones). For less than the cost of two Starbucks drinks, you can donate one headphone set. If you have a group of people wanting to help the needs of the students, the cost is less. Even if you are unable to attend the Read-In on February 28, 2020, please consider donating to help this underserved student population (donate here).

As an affiliate member of Lawyers Club of San Diego with eleven years as an educator, I have a first-hand understanding of the impacts caused by lack of educational funding, and of the desperate need for the educational tools that assist teachers in providing stimulating instruction. My philosophy is and has always been, “Education is the Key to Freedom.” Your donation will help level the educational playing field for these children.

Stacy Roby co-owns The Roby Company Real Estate Brokerage specializing in property valuation, disposition, and estate sales throughout San Diego County, and wrote this for the Lawyers Club of San Diego’s Community Outreach Committee.

 

 

 

 

Tags:  Central Elementary  Community Outreach Committee  donations  education  equipment  freedom  headphones  read-in 

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Breaking Bread with Judge Vallera Johnson

Posted By Valerie Garcia Hong for Lawyers Club's Diverse Women's Committee, Tuesday, February 4, 2020
Updated: Tuesday, February 4, 2020

 

It was a crisp Sunday afternoon in Coronado. Everyone was dressed in their “Sunday best” like we’d just sang “Hallelujah” hours earlier. Only, it wasn’t church. It was one of the first Women of Color in Law lunches.

As a new lawyer who had recently moved from Chicago to San Diego, I did not have a community of colleagues, friends, or mentors early on in my career. I was “winging it.” I attended one of these lunches hoping to meet someone who could guide me. That afternoon, I sat down next to a woman with a warm smile and contagious energy. Over bread (because all good discussions start with bread), I later learned that the woman seated next to me was Judge Vallera Johnson, one of the founders of Women of Color in Law. Judge Johnson, along with Judge Lillian Lim, began to organize informal lunches where law students and lawyers could get together to share their stories navigating a legal career in San Diego.

Five years after that Sunday afternoon, Judge Johnson invited me to join the Board of Directors for Women of Color in Law. I was a mother of two young girls under the age of 4 and a young partner at a law firm balancing business development and lawyering. Judge Johnson asked me to join a panel with Judge Tamila Ipema, Stacie East, Sabina Clorfeine, and Katy Goshtasbi to talk about Sheryl Sandburg’s book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. I told Judge Johnson that I could barely manage a shower that morning and did not know if I was the right person to talk about “leaning in.” Judge Johnson told me that this was exactly why I was the right person to join the panel. Reflecting on her own life as a working mother, Judge Johnson gave me the permission (or authority that I assume only a judge can offer) to pause, tap out, and lean in when I was ready. This is the kind of experience and reflection that I value in my friendship and mentorship with Judge Johnson.

It is no surprise that the Lawyers Club of San Diego’s Diverse Women Committee will be honoring Judge Johnson with a reception on February 13, 2020register here. Judge Johnson has been an Administrative Law Judge with the State of California’s Office for Administrative Hearings since 1990. She’s been recognized for her commitment to diversity from several organizations including the California Lawyers Association and Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association. Throughout her career, Judge Johnson has been instrumental in diversifying the bench and developing a pipeline of qualified candidates.

Women of Color in Law has been “breaking bread” in larger luncheons and smaller intimate meetups with law students and lawyers for over a decade. California Judicial Appointments Secretary, Justice Martin J. Jenkins, will discuss the process of judicial appointments with Governor Newsom at Women of Color in Law’s “Find Your Seat on the Bench” lunch on February 16, 2020register here.

Valerie Garcia Hong is the Founder of Garcia Hong Law, is always willing to break bread and share stories, and wrote this for Lawyers Club of San Diego’s Diverse Women’s Committee.

 

 

 

 

Tags:  advancement  attrition  bias  diverse  diversity  Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association  Governor Newsom  implicit bias  inclusion  judicial appointment  lean in  Martin J. Jenkins  mentors  mentorship  minority  retention  Sheryl Sandberg  Women of Color in Law 

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The Need to Ratify the Equal Rights Amendment

Posted By Elvira Cortez: A President's Perspective, Tuesday, February 4, 2020
Updated: Tuesday, February 4, 2020

To much fanfare, on January 15, Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (“ERA”) to the Constitution, a proposed amendment guaranteeing equal rights to all citizens regardless of sex.

The ERA provides as follows: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

Virginia’s ratification is the last ratification necessary to reach the three-fourths requirement to become a constitutional amendment. Since there are legal obstacles to the ratification’s validity (Virginia’s ratification came about 40 years after the deadline set by Congress), there is much uncertainty whether Congress will act to ensure that the ERA becomes law. Given that is has been over 40 years since the ERA was first proposed to Congress, people have questioned whether the ERA is still necessary. There is an easy answer to that question: the ERA’s passage is just as important now as it was forty years ago.

While women have made much progress over the last 40 years, women still systematically face discrimination and harassment on the basis of their gender in all facets of society. The ERA is not a panacea to eliminate unequal treatment, no more than the Civil Rights Act eliminated racism. However, its passage would send a message that our society values all genders and will not tolerate discrimination based on sex.

Its passage is also necessary to cement and improve upon existing law prohibiting sex discrimination. While existing constitutional precedent prohibits sex discrimination under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, the late Justice Antonin Scalia publicly claimed that, under his interpretation, the 14th Amendment did not protect against discrimination based on sex or gender. In other words, established constitutional precedent can be overturned. Moreover, the necessity of the ERA is evident in the face recent rollbacks of significant advances in women’s rights and policies that target vulnerable women in general. For example, among many other policies, the following federal and state policies have been pursued since 2016: significant and sustained attacks on reproductive rights, slashing of civil rights enforcement, child separation at the border, reversing LGBT protections, rewriting rules on housing discrimination, rewriting Title IX regulations regarding sexual assaults in college, and rolling back disparate impact regulations for anti-discrimination protection. Women need a constitutional amendment to stem the possibility of further retrenchment of women’s rights.

The legal, moral, and social urgency to protect women’s rights requires us to advocate for Congress to take steps to ensure the addition of the ERA to our Constitution. This is not just to protect our rights but the rights of our daughters and granddaughters.

 

-Article first published in LC News, February 2020

 

Elvira Cortez practices business and commercial litigation and employment defense at Dinsmore & Shohl, LLP and is the 2019-2020 president of Lawyers Club.

 

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Advocating for Women of Color

Posted By Elvira Cortez: A President's Perspective, Thursday, January 30, 2020
Updated: Thursday, January 30, 2020

 

As many of you know, women of color face many obstacles in the legal profession. Studies have shown that the combination, or intersectionality, of race and gender has a particularly devastating effect on the professional lives of women of color. For example, Black women only earn 65% of wages earned by men and Latinas 62%. Women of color are also much more likely to leave the private practice or the legal profession entirely. While the Judicial Council of California does not identify demographics for judges based on a combination of gender and race, its annual judicial survey has shown that Asians comprise of 7.8%, Blacks comprise of 7.5%, and Latinos comprise 10.8% of superior court judges.

In order for women of color to succeed in the legal profession they need advocates that will address the barriers to success. The San Diego community is fortunate to have the Hon. Vallera Johnson, who has been an advocate of women of color for decades. Judge Johnson is this year’s keynote speaker for the Women of Color Reception, which is scheduled for February 13, 2020 at Procopio. We hope you will join us and be inspired by sage advice and good company

 

Elvira Cortez practices business and commercial litigation and employment defense at Dinsmore & Shohl, LLP and is the 2019-2020 president of Lawyers Club.

 

Tags:  advocacy  gender  gender pay gap  intersectionality  race  representation  women of color 

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All Hands on Deck – Inclusion Includes You

Posted By Kevonna Ahmad for Lawyers Club's Diverse Women's Committee, Tuesday, January 28, 2020

It is no secret that law firms have struggled with achieving and maintaining a diverse workforce. And, while law firms have made leaps and bounds in recruiting diverse candidates, the unfortunate fact remains that women lawyers and lawyers of color have the highest rates of attrition in the profession. In fact, a recent study revealed that the number of minority women lawyers who leave their law firms has steadily risen in the last decade. Minority women made up one-third of all associates who left their law firms in 2017. These statistics are startling and indicate that there is still work to be done within the profession. But what can we, as members of Lawyers Club of San Diego, do to help facilitate this important work?


As a minority woman lawyer, I have experienced the challenges of trying to find a firm where I felt I could grow as an attorney and advance toward partnership. Although I am a new lawyer, my post-law school job search made it clear to me that doing so would be no easy feat. After what seemed like a thousand law firm interviews, I was fortunate to find my current firm, where the culture and people finally felt right. Every firm is unique, but here are three ways most firms can curb the high rates of minority lawyer attrition and promote diversity and inclusion.


1. Have a Formal Mentorship Program: Many minority lawyers, including myself, are the first person in their family to enter into the practice of law. Having a mentor as an ally in a law firm is a critical resource that should not be underestimated. A mentor should act as a sounding board for the diverse associate, show them the ropes and help them get acquainted to the firm. The mentor should also act as both a source of work and a source of constructive criticism for the associate. Having a mentor greatly increases the chances that a diverse lawyer will feel like their law firm will provide long-term support for their career.


2. Promote Diverse Lawyers: Studies have shown that the presence of diverse attorneys in leadership roles has a positive impact on both innovation and diversity. Diverse lawyers should be present on key firm decision-making committees such as the partner selection, compensation and executive committees. This makes business sense because clients are increasingly demanding diverse representation. Moreover, diverse attorneys are more likely to stay at a firm where attorneys who “look like them” have a chance at advancement and leadership within the firm.


3. Give Diverse Lawyers Opportunities / Check Implicit Bias: Whether we like it or not, everyone carries implicit biases. Unfortunately, sometimes these biases can lead to diverse attorneys receiving less opportunities than their white counterparts. Firms seeking to retain diverse talent should be mindful of the quality of the work being assigned to their diverse associates. Diverse associates should be given work that is as equally challenging as their white counterparts including opportunities to interact with clients, interact with opposing counsel, appear in court, and provide advice and counsel. While providing less-challenging work to diverse associates may merely be an “implicit bias” of law firm leadership, these attorneys recognize when they are not being valued and we will undoubtedly leave a firm if their career growth is being stifled.


As members of Lawyers Club of San Diego, I encourage you to incorporate these three suggestions into your firm’s or organization’s diversity and inclusion/retention strategies. Advancing diversity in the legal profession is an important issue which affects all of us, and one which we all can play a role in championing.


Join us on February 13, 2020 at Procopio from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Women of Color reception where Lawyers Club will honor and celebrate women of color in the legal community with keynote speaker the Honorable Vallera Johnson

Kevonna Ahmad is a Labor and Employment Associate at Fisher & Phillips LLP and wrote this for Lawyers Club of San Diego’s Diverse Women’s Committee.

 

 

 

Tags:  advancement  attrition  bias  diverse  diversity  implicit bias  inclusion  mentors  mentorship  minority  retention 

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47th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

Posted By Elvira Cortez: A President's Perspective, Thursday, January 23, 2020
Updated: Thursday, January 23, 2020

This week marks the 47th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, which established a constitutional right for women to have a safe abortion. While some have criticized the decision on legal and ethical grounds, this landmark decision on women’s reproductive rights is supported by 73% of Americans. Lawyer Club supports a women’s right to choose and a women’s rights over her own reproductive health.

The most significant impact of Roe v. Wade has been the marked improvement on women’s health, especially for women of low socio-economic status. Before Roe v. Wade, illegal abortions comprised of one-sixth of all pregnancy related deaths. A study in New York City found that of the women with low incomes who had obtained an abortion, 80% had attempted dangerous, self-induced abortions. After Roe v. Wade, abortions conducted by medical professionals have a 99% safety record.

The reversal of Roe v. Wade would have a significant detrimental impact to the health of poor women, especially in states with significant populations. Twenty states are ready to outlaw abortions should Roe v. Wade be overturned, which include the poorest states in the country like Mississippi and Alabama. It is estimated that 25 million women are at risk of losing access to abortion, which constitutes about 1/3 of all women of reproductive age. We must continue to support Roe v. Wade to avoid taking a significant step back on women’s health and reproductive rights. 

 

If you are interested in learning more about supporting women’s reproductive rights, please join us at the 47th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade Breakfast Event. You can also review the amicus brief filed in June Medical Services LLC, et. al v. Gee (a case before the Supreme Court regarding Louisiana’s restrictive abortion laws), which Lawyers Club has joined in support of women’s reproductive rights. Please see our article posted here

 

Elvira Cortez practices business and commercial litigation and employment defense at Dinsmore & Shohl, LLP and is the 2019-2020 president of Lawyers Club.

 

Tags:  abortion  equality  reproductive justice  reproductive rights  roe v. wade 

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Lawyers Club of San Diego Signs Supreme Court Amicus Brief Regarding a Challenge to Abortion Rights

Posted By Jinsook Ohta for Lawyers Club's Women's Advocacy and Reproductive Justice Committee, Tuesday, January 21, 2020

In late 2019, Lawyers Club of San Diego signed an amicus brief filed in the United States Supreme Court case, June Medical Services LLC., et. al. v. Gee. In doing so, Lawyers Club joined nearly 200 organizations and more than 700 individuals who signed U.S. Supreme Court amicus briefs voicing opposition to Louisiana’s Act 620, a law that would make it nearly impossible for Louisiana residents to obtain abortion care.

Twenty seven “friend of the court” briefs were filed, opposing medically unnecessary abortion restrictions that undermine access. Other signers include major medical associations like the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 197 members of Congress, attorneys general from 21 states and the District of Columbia, reproductive justice advocates, civil rights organizations, social science experts, the American Bar Association, prominent legal scholars and former judges, abortion providers, faith leaders, and close to 380 individuals sharing stories of their personal abortion experiences.

On October 4, 2019, the United States Supreme Court, in June Medical Services LLC., et. al. v. Gee, agreed to hear a challenge to Louisiana’s Act 620, the “Unsafe Abortion Protection Act,” which passed in June 2014. In part, Act 620, requires, “[E]very physician who performs or induces an abortion shall ‘have active admitting privileges at a hospital that is located not further than thirty miles from the location at which the abortion is performed or induced.’”

The justices’ announcement that they will weigh in on the constitutionality of the Louisiana law comes less than three and a half years after the United States Supreme Court struck down a similar law from Texas by a vote of 5-3. Texas had tried to defend the law by arguing that the admitting-privileges requirement was intended to protect the health of pregnant women. Justice Kennedy joined the court’s four more liberal justices in holding that the state had not provided any evidence to show that the admitting-privileges requirement actually served that interest. June Medical Services LLC., et. al. v. Gee will be the first case heard by the Supreme Court challenging to abortion rights since the appointment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

EDITOR NOTE: Oral arguments for June Medical Services LLC. are scheduled for March 4, 2020.

Jinsook (Jin) Ohta is a Supervising Deputy Attorney General at the California Department of Justice, Consumer Law Section and wrote this for Lawyers Club of San Diego’s Women’s Advocacy and Reproductive Justice Committee.

 

 

Tags:  abortion  access  June Medical Services LLC  Kavanaugh  reproductive justice  Supreme Court  USSCt 

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Join the Fight for Women's Rights

Posted By Elvira Cortez: A President's Perspective, Thursday, January 16, 2020
Updated: Thursday, January 16, 2020

 

On January 18, 2020, the fourth annual Women’s March will be held in San Diego, an event for women and men to advocate for women’s rights and show politicians around the country that women’s rights cannot be ignored. The Women’s March in San Diego will coincide with other marches around the United States, including in our nation’s capital, as a response to actions by state and federal governments to retrench important civil rights, LGBTQ rights, and reproductive rights that protect women and families.

As our country prepares for its next election, we must show up and advocate for policies that ensure equal treatment for all women. The importance of women’s rights must be part of the discussion during this election cycle. This should also serve as a reminder to us all to support elected officials that embrace these values and push to elect even more women to elected office. This will serve not only to protect the gains women have achieved on important issues, like reproductive rights, but to continue to push our government for pass necessary polices, like the Equal Rights Amendment, equal pay, and paid family leave. In the words of our Justice Ginsburg, "Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you." Let us all join the fight.

 

Elvira Cortez practices business and commercial litigation and employment defense at Dinsmore & Shohl, LLP and is the 2019-2020 president of Lawyers Club.

 

Tags:  advocacy  civil rights  election  politics  reproductive rights  women’s advocacy  women's march 

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A New Chapter for our Judiciary

Posted By Elvira Cortez: A President's Perspective, Thursday, January 9, 2020
Updated: Wednesday, January 8, 2020

 

As many of you know, despite comprising half the population, women only make up thirty-six percent of judges in the Superior Court of California. Women are likewise underrepresented in leadership positions on the bench. Lawyers Club is excited to recognize that Judge Lorna Alksne was elected to serve as the new Presiding Judge for the San Diego Superior Court. Importantly, Judge Alksne is only the third woman to serve as Presiding Judge in San Diego County. The first woman to serve as presiding judge was Justice Judith McConnell, one of our founding mothers.

Judge Alksne selected a number of women to assume leadership roles in the judiciary, including Hon. Randa Trapp, Supervising Judge for Civil (the first African-American Supervising Judge for Civil); Hon. Margo Lewis Hoy, Supervising Judge for Family; Hon. Ana L. España, Supervising Judge for Juvenile; and Hon. Eugenia Eyherabide, Supervising Judge for Criminal. Judge Alksne also selected Hon. Dwayne Moring to serve as the first African-American Supervising Judge for the South County Courthouse. Lawyers Club congratulates and welcomes the new Presiding Judge and looks forward to her wisdom, leadership, and guidance in helping shape our judiciary.

 

Elvira Cortez practices business and commercial litigation and employment defense at Dinsmore & Shohl, LLP and is the 2019-2020 president of Lawyers Club.

 

Tags:  diversity  equality  judiciary  leadership  legal profession  superior court  women 

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Tips for Successful Court Advocacy: Effective Strategies for Building Credibility and Rapport

Posted By Phillip Stephan for Lawyers Club's Bench Bar Committee, Tuesday, January 7, 2020

At the Bench Bar Committee, San Diego Lawyers Club members are given the opportunity to attend events that provide an informal, relaxed atmosphere for members of the bench and members of Lawyers Club to meet, interact, and discuss the legal profession. The goal of this experience is to help us all understand that members of the bench are approachable people – they make mistakes, understand that you may be slightly anxious when you are arguing in front of them, and maybe even spill salad dressing on their clothes too.
Although an informal lunch may not provide the most applicable training for your career-defining oral argument, the San Diego Lawyers Club’s Bench Bar Committee has helped numerous people, including me, learn about how best to connect with the bench. Oral argument is an extension of your ability to hold a conversation – a conversation with more structure, specialized terminology, and often, the demand for persuasion. Social interaction with our esteemed judicial offers has provided me with a foundation to calmly handle oral argument, and I credit Lawyers Club, the San Diego County Bar Association, and other San Diego organizations for providing such great opportunities. Here are some guiding principles for oral argument that have come in handy:


1. Engage the judge. This is a conversation, rather than a debate. Your debate is with opposing counsel. Hopefully, you’ve persuasively presented the points in your moving papers. Speaking of your moving papers . . .

2. Do not read to the judge. To effectively engage your judge, it is ineffective to read the same statement you’ve made in your moving papers, unless the situation or the judge specifically calls for that – the judge has considered those arguments already. Try to condense your points into a one sheet outline or a series of brief sheets, depending on the complexity of your case. Brief sheets are a technique for splitting up a complex oral argument into easy references, with one brief sheet covering case law, one covering your arguments, and one covering any opposing arguments, etc.

3. Deliver your point concisely. Even when you cannot be brief in your brief, make sure that you do not include unnecessary detail that may cause the judicial officer to lose interest in your argument. Part of concisely addressing the points you want to make includes properly integrating any tentative rulings, as well as interactively listening to the questions and underlying concerns of the direction from the bench. Numerous talented practitioners stress that oral argument is dynamic.

4. Be respectful and reliable. Credibility is the essential attribute that anyone making an argument must exude to persuade others, or hold a conversation. Although your job is to advocate, you cannot afford to lose credibility.

As the new year arrives, I often find the time for reflection and come up with a resolution or two. This year, one resolution is to concentrate on staying mindful, including following my own advice and trusting the lessons I have learned through my experience. I provided the above tips because that advice reflects the ideal way of delivering an oral argument; real life may not always be so simple. If you (and I) take the time to prepare, and trust that preparation has been diligent and thorough, we will all be able to improve our conversation, both in and out of the courtroom.


Enjoy a prosperous 2020!

 

Phillip Stephan is an Associate Attorney at Neil, Dymott, Frank, McCabe & Hudson, APLC, and he wrote this for San Diego Lawyers Club’s Bench Bar Committee.

 

 

 

Tags:  advocacy  bench bar  briefs  judge  judicial engagement  oral argument  reliability  respect 

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